Mixed Feelings About the CDC’s Recent Call to Boomers

By Anne Holmes
NABBW’s Baby Boomer Expert

By now you probably would have to be living under a rock not to have heard that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is suggesting that all Boomers get tested for Hepatitis C.

Apparently statistic indicate that one in 30 of us Baby Boomers is infected with virus, according to the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most of us don\’t know it.

So the CDC is moving ahead with a proposal that all baby boomers (those of us born between 1945 and 1965) get a blood test to check for the virus. (Prior guidelines had called for testing when someone has known risk factors.)

Clearly the CDC believes they are going to save a lot of lives with this one-time test. According to their news release:

“Baby boomers are five times more likely than other American adults to be infected with the disease. In fact, more than 75 percent of American adults with hepatitis C are baby boomers.”

Beyond that, there are these facts:

  • Apparently most people who have been infected have no idea they are carrying the liver-damaging virus.
  • Infection rates were highest in the \’70s and \’80s.
  • All told, the CDC figures that one-time testing of Boomers could uncover 800,000 cases of infection.
  • About 3.2 million people Americans are thought to be infected with the liver-damaging virus.
  • Hepatitis C symptoms can be mild or nonexistent, so it\’s not unusual for someone who\’s got the virus to be unaware of it.

Now I understand the concept of life-saving public awareness healthcare campaigns:

  • We\’ve all lived long enough to have experienced health- and life-saving campaigns like 1960\’s “Sabin on Sunday” campaign, which virtually eradicated polio in the United States.
  • And whether or not you were impacted by Katie Couric\’s televised exam, hopefully most of us have hadat least one colonoscopy by now. It\’s clearly true that the minor discomfort of the prep is worthwhile, given that early identification can prevent a torturous death by colon cancer.
  • Likewise, I\’m totally supportive of the efforts of prominent women like Happy Rockefeller, Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan, who came forward to speak up about formerly unmentionable topics like breast cancer and addictions to alcohol and pain killers. These potentially embarrassing efforts no doubt sent many people to their doctors and therefore saved uncountable lives.

But it seems to me that since I\’ve never had a blood transfusion, nor have I ever injected myself with illegal drugs…I should not be at risk for developing Hep C.

So do I really need to schedule myself now for a Hep C test?

Some articles I\’ve read on this topic suggest the reason for the suggestion that we all be tested is really just another ploy by “Big Pharma.” I believe they suggest this because there are now a couple of new Hep C drugs available which can prevent those of us who are carrying Hep C from getting a full-blown case.

So let\’s talk: What do you think about this? Should every Baby Boomer heed the call of the CDC and get the – simple and easy – blood test for Hep C?

After all, doing it nowas a result of the CDC\’s recommendation might mean our ever-vigilant insurance companies will cover for the expense – the way many now do for standard screenings, like Pap tests. Likewise, doing it now might mean these same insurance companies won\’t flag a decision to do the test as a potential admission of prior drug abuse – an activity that might otherwise raise premium rates over the long term.